Last Updated on July 6, 2023 by Otuebo Harrison
Yoga is a wonderful addition to any exercise programme. Thanks in part to its distinctive pranayama breathing, yoga enhances muscle tone, flexibility, and balance as well as your ability to unwind and manage stress. Additionally, studies have demonstrated that yoga practices improve general wellbeing and quality of life by lowering stress, anxiety, sadness, and chronic pain as well as by improving sleep.
Are you prepared to try it? Here are eight “asanas” (yoga poses) for beginners that are recommended by yoga instructors.
1. Child’s Pose — Balasana — to Help You Relax and Unwind
From Downward-Facing Dog, simply bend your knees and lower your butt to your heels as you bring your chest toward the floor over your knees. Lower your shoulders and head to the floor. Place your arms along your sides, palms down, or you can support your head by folding your arms under your forehead. Breathe and relax for as long as you need to.
“Child’s Pose is one of the most healing yoga poses, and it’s my favorite of them all,” says Cullis. “It awakens the connection between the breath and body and sends calming energy through all the muscles. It’s an opportunity to get grounded, go inward, and to come out of your busy mind and into your body by awakening your breath from the inside out.” Child’s Pose is a great way to take a break and relax during your yoga practice, or anytime you feel tired or overwhelmed.
2. Mountain Pose — Tadasana — to Improve Your Posture
Stand still, with your chest open and broad and your hands at your sides, and feel your feet on the floor and the sensations in your legs and back. Then analyze your posture in front of a mirror. Lawrence makes her athletes hold long pencils in each hand as they stand. “I tell them to look down at the pencils and, like a compass, see how they point. Are they the same? Does one point straight and the other point to three on the clock?”
This pose will show if you have any imbalances in your shoulders and give you clues about what you need to work on. If one pencil is very turned in, so is your shoulder.
3. Baby Pigeon Pose to Open Up Your Hips
From all fours, move your right knee forward between your hands. As though you were doing a lunge, slowly straighten your left leg behind you, keeping the knee and top of the foot on the floor. Now rotate the right knee toward the right wrist and bring it down to the floor with your right calf flat on the floor and your right foot resting under your left groin. Lower your upper body over the bent leg, either all the way to the floor or resting on your elbows. Slowly inhale and exhale five times. Before you change sides, push back on your left leg to stretch the calf muscles. Repeat with your left leg bent and right leg extended.
This pose is a favorite for runners because it boosts hip flexibility and also releases the glutes and low back, Lawrence says. “If you run, lift weights, do CrossFit, or Spin, you must do this stretch to keep strong and flexible and enhance your performance.” It may be challenging at first, but you’ll learn to love this pose, Lawrence promises.
4. Legs-up-the-Wall Pose — Viparita Karani — to Restore and Revitalize
This is a great ending pose for beginners and those experienced at yoga alike. Lie on the floor with your butt right up against a wall. “Walk” your legs straight up the wall so that your body is in an L shape with your torso flat on the floor and perpendicular to the wall. You may want to place a rolled-up blanket under your lower back for support; keep your elbows out to the sides on the floor for additional support. Flex toes to feel a stretch in the backs of your legs. Breathe deeply and hold the position for as long as you like. To release, bring your knees to your chest and roll over to your side.
This pose revitalizes tired legs and puts renewed pep in your step, Lawrence says.
5. Easy Pose — Sukhasana — to Relieve Stress
Sit cross-legged on a yoga mat with your hands on your knees, palms up. Keep your spine as straight as you can. Push the bones you’re sitting on down into the floor — your “sit bones” in yoga-speak. Close your eyes and inhale.
“This is a great pose for beginners to use as an assessment,” says Gwen Lawrence, yoga coach for the New York Knicks and other sports teams, athletes, and celebrities. “Just sitting on the floor gives you a perfect way to see and feel the external rotation on the legs.” This pose also boosts back flexibility and can help relieve stress.
6. Tree Pose — Vrksasana — to Improve Your Balance
Start by standing straight for this pose. Bring your hands together in the prayer position and lift them over your head. Balance on your right leg. Bend your left knee out to the left side and press your left foot to the inner thigh of your right leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
“This pose helps to stretch the body long, from the heels to the tips of your fingers,” says Shea Vaughn, wellness and fitness expert and author of Breakthrough: The 5 Living Principles to Defeat Stress, Look Great, and Find Total Well-Being (and mom of actor Vince Vaughn). It will also help you improve your balance.
7. Cat-Cow to Awaken the Spine and Ease Back Pain
Get on your mat on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Distribute your weight equally between your hands and spread your fingers wide. Inhale and round your back, arching it up as you lower your chin to your chest; feel the stretch from your neck to your tailbone, like a cat. As you exhale, lower your back down all the way to a scoop shape as you lift your head, and tilt it back.
“Cat-Cow stretches and awakens the spine, which helps ease back pain,” says Baptiste Yoga teacher Leah Cullis. “It also opens and increases flexibility of the whole spine, neck, chest, and shoulders. I recommend repeating 5 to 10 times or more.”